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ADAM ANSELL'S TOP 25 FOR PHOENIX
1. Jimmie Johnson: In 14 starts at Phoenix International Raceway, Johnson has four wins, nine Top Fives, 12 Top 10s and one pole. Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, he leads all competitors in Driver Rating (123.7), Average Running Position (4.9), Fastest Laps Run (406), Average Green Flag Speed (123.850 mph) and Laps in the Top 15 (95.9 percent). Phoenix is one of four flat tracks (Martinsville, New Hampshire, Richmond), and while a universal statement of "good at one, good at all" is not always true, the lack of banking on these tracks does create a similar racing style and patience needed by the driver. In seven flat track starts this season, Johnson has one win, four Top Fives and six Top 10s with an Average Finish of eighth. He's 33 points behind the Chase leader, but won't relinquish his throne without a fight.
2. Denny Hamlin: In 10 starts at the site, Hamlin has five Top Fives, six Top 10s and one pole (November 2005). He ranks eighth in DR (95.2) and in ARP (12.8). In seven starts on flat tracks this season, Hamlin has three wins and four Top Fives. Hamlin has done what no other driver has been able to do in the last four years, and that's bump Johnson out of first place in the standings with two Chase races remaining. Phoenix is the site where Hamlin's season turned around. Fresh off of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery, instead of running only a few race laps, Hamlin stuck it out and finished 30th, but rallied the No. 11 team together with his show of toughness. "I know my guys would do it for me. I couldn't let them down," Hamlin said after the race. As tough as that is to compete with, Johnson gets the edge based solely on desperation.
3. Kevin Harvick: In 15 starts at the site, Harvick has two wins (2006 sweep), three Top Fives and six Top 10s. He ranks 10th in DR (94.6) and seventh in ARP (12.0). After a rough start this season on flat tracks (35th at Martinsville, 13th at Phoenix), Harvick bounced back with four Top Fives, five Top 10s and an Average Finish of fifth in his last five flat track starts. Harvick has finished in the Top 10 in seven of the eight Chase races, leading at least one lap in five of them. He's been as consistently solid as any driver in the field, but in order to overcome the 59-point deficit, Harvick must post a Top Three finish with some laps led at Phoenix. He hasn't done either since November 2006, but that will change this weekend. Start him in all formats.
4. Kyle Busch: In 11 starts at the site, Busch has one win (November 2005), seven Top 10s and one pole (April 2006). He ranks ninth in DR (94.8) and sixth in ARP (11.9). Busch has fallen out of contention (seventh in the standings) because of some bad luck, but mainly due to inconsistencies in the Chase. He has four Top 10s and four finishes outside the Top 20. Flat tracks are an area Busch has been extremely consistent, posting one win (Richmond), three Top Fives, five Top 10s and an Average Finish of 8.1 in seven starts. While he won't come at a great value in Tiered/Grouping formats, he's a great bet for a Top Five finish.
5. Joey Logano: In three starts at the site, Logano has one Top 10 (April 2010). He ranks 21st in DR (73.4) and 22nd in ARP (19.8). Logano has been the best non-Chase driver through eight events, with four straight Top 10s and an Average Finish of 11th overall. Take away his 35th-place blemish at New Hampshire and his Average Finish in the Chase is 7.6. He's been spectacular on flat tracks this season, recording two Top Fives and five Top 10s in seven starts. Logano's hot streak is still flying under the Fantasy radar making him this weekend's top sleeper play.
6. Jeff Gordon: In 23 starts at the site, Gordon has one win, nine Top Fives, 17 Top 10s and three poles. He ranks third in DR (101.1) and second in ARP (9.6). Gordon began the year with four straight Top Five flat track finishes with an Average Finish of 2.8. He has just one Top 10 in his last three flat track appearances, with an Average Finish of 12.7. With just one win his last 111 starts, you have to wonder if this dad fight was more about frustration than being crashed out. Gordon won't win a race this season, but knows he needs momentum heading into 2011 to get out of his winless funk. He'll come up with a solid performance at Phoenix.
7. Carl Edwards: In 12 starts at the site, Edwards has four Top Fives, eight Top 10s and one pole (November 2007). He ranks fifth in DR (98.6) and ninth in ARP (13.4). He has one Top Five, five Top 10s and an Average Finish of 10.6 in seven flat tracks starts this season. Edwards began the Chase in ninth and has moved his way up to fourth, a testament to his consistency. That consistency has gone mostly unnoticed by Fantasy owners, as Edwards continues to be undervalued in Tiered/Grouping formats. He's an ideal start for owners looking to make one final comeback.
8. Clint Bowyer: In 10 starts at the site, Bowyer has two Top Fives and four Top 10s. He ranks 15th in DR (84.7) and 11th in ARP (14.6). Bowyer proved his resiliency with several strong performances after being docked 150 points following a victory at New Hampshire to open the Chase. Bowyer has been as reliable as any driver on flat tracks this season, posting one win and five Top 10s. Aside from his 38th-place finish at Martinsville in October, his Average Finish at flat tracks is seventh. Bowyer won't provide any value this weekend, but he will come through with high-end results. Fantasy owners should start him with confidence.
9. Ryan Newman: In 16 starts at the site, Newman has one win (April 2010), four Top Fives and four poles. From November 2002-04, he won three consecutive poles. He's led at least one lap in five of his last six starts at the site. He ranks 14th in DR (85.9) and ARP (15.7). Newman has been stellar on flat tracks this season with one win, two Top Fives and five Top 10s, which doesn't include an 11th-place finish at Richmond. He was among the hottest drivers on the circuit from August through October, but has an Average Finish of 27th in his last four starts. Fantasy owners should expect a serious bounce back from Newman at Phoenix.
10. Matt Kenseth: In 16 starts at the site, Kenseth has one win (November 2002), five Top Fives and seven Top 10s. He ranks 16th in DR (83.3) and 19th in ARP (18.3). He's led at least one lap in each of his past two races and is coming off of a second-place finish at Texas. Kenseth has been below average this season on flat tracks with just one Top 10 and an Average Finish of 15.1. With two Top 10s in his last four Chase events, momentum is starting to swing his way. He's a low-risk Fantasy option.
11. Tony Stewart: One win (November 1999), seven Top Fives and nine Top 10s in 17 starts at the site. 96.2 DR.
12. Jeff Burton: Two wins, six Top Fives and 12 Top 10s in 22 starts at the site. 86.2 DR.
13. Mark Martin: He has four Top Five finishes in his last five starts at the site. 102.3 DR.
14. Kurt Busch: One win, four Top Fives and eight Top 10s in 15 starts at the site. 98.7 DR.
15. Greg Biffle: Three Top Fives and four Top 10s in 13 starts at the site. 96.2 DR.
16. Juan Pablo Montoya: 81.6 DR.
17. Jamie McMurray: 76.0.
18. Martin Truex Jr.: 88.5.
19. A.J. Allmendinger: 76.9.
20. David Reutimann: 73.3.
21. Kasey Kahne
22. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
23. Regan Smith
24. Paul Menard
25. Brad Keselowski
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